As we chatted about her current classes and which ones she’s particularly enjoying, she started talking about this year’s religion class. She described the lengthy discussions on ethical issues that spurred heated debates between her classmates. She described going on Wikipedia to read about topics that had come up in class that she wanted to understand better. It was clear that this subject was one she was genuinely interested in – not so that she could get an A in the class but because it captured her curiosity.
I made a casual comment about how she might want to take a philosophy class when she got to college since she had enjoyed wrestling with these open-ended questions so much. She replied that she probably wouldn’t because one of her teachers told her not to study philosophy in college because you can’t get a job. And then I – gulp – went on a bit of a tirade.
Who knows if this was a faithful translation of what this teacher said, or if it was a teenage oversimplification. And, yes, I can recognize that ZipRecruiter is not teeming with listings for “philosophers” specifically. But nothing makes me crazier than the idea that some majors are “good” and some majors are “bad.” So like any good liberal arts major, I did some research, and I found a whole bunch of cool people who majored in philosophy and managed to get jobs.
- Peter Thiel – the co-founder and former CEO of PayPal, venture capitalist, and first outside investor in Facebook studied philosophy at Stanford University. He credits his degree with helping him “think for himself” and avoid going along with the Silicon Valley crowd.
- Steve Martin – the comedian, award-winning playwright, and author studied philosophy along with theater at Cal State University, Long Beach. His philosophy education taught him to question the things that everyone else just assumed to be true, an essential skill for an up-and-coming comedian.
- Phil Jackson – the former Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers coach who led his teams to 11 championship wins studied philosophy at the University of North Dakota. He was so impacted by what he had learned that he wrote a book connecting basketball and Zen spirituality, Sacred Hoops: "Not only is there more to life than basketball, there's a lot more to basketball than basketball."
- Angela Davis – the political activist, professor emerita at University of California, Santa Cruz, and celebrated author studied French and then philosophy at Brandeis under well-known Marxist, Herbert Marcuse. Her studies encouraged her to join the Communist Party, and while she is considered controversial by some, there is no doubt that she has used her philosophy education to powerful effect.